100 pieces project – the incessant introspection of Jacklyn St. Aubyn

This process includes my emotions and my body, and asserts that my whole being is the instrument of perception, not just my mind.
– Jacklyn St. Aubyn

I know Jacklyn St. Aubyn from my time at New Mexico State University. We received MFA’s in the same year.  I invited her to exhibit in the Project Room, when I was a member of eye lounge (2007).  She later invited me to guest lecture at NMSU where she taught drawing and painting up until last year. She’s recently retired and tells me she can now live out a long desired dream – to paint everyday.

As I pull together images for this post I am absorbed by a series of small 4″ x 4″ oil paintings on panel. I learn Jacklyn plans to make 100 of them. I will focus on this particular body of work. I will include a few other recent pieces at the end of the post, to show variety and for a better understanding of the process as it influences what I’ll call … the 100 pieces project.

Crab Apples

I ask Jacklyn about the small works in particular and her process in general.

When painting, my consciousness is sharpened and concentrated on the task at hand (observation and painting), but at the same time it is open and porous and connected to subjective thoughts.  Often while painting with this concentration I feel a deep sense of accord between myself and everything.  Time slows down and extends.  In my practice of painting I must maintain this steady presence with myself and the object of my attention because this is a process of discovery in which revelations occur.  I am on a path to find beauty and truth. 

Pomegranate on Blue

It sounds like a meditation, maybe many meditations. The subject matter itself on some level, is everyday and ordinary.  On the other hand, forms, colors, patterns and the play between it all, are extraordinary. The work captivates my full attention. Yes, the beauty is clear.  But I know that the idea of beauty is a bit more subjective and maybe transient. I am most drawn to her comment on finding truth.

Yes, she says, it is a form of meditation.  Having meditated for 8 years, I can understand the correlation between meditation and painting for me.  Concentration and focused attention along with practice are the essential parts of meditation.  This is true also with painting.  I think I will discover a lot in this process of doing 100 pieces.  I am focusing in on the simplest part of what ordinarily would be my subject. This gives me a close look at my painting process as well as isolating what is absolutely important to me. 

In general, Jacklyn’s work is small and intimate. These last two sentences (above) clearly place me right into the context of this newest and smallest series.

She continues … By concentrating on this simple object or still life and working to extract as much as possible from observation, I am heightening my awareness.  I have to maintain a yearning for truth and a determination to look closely and long, not to settle for secondhand assumptions. 


I know working realistically as Jacklyn does is intense process. The seeing is as much work as the putting down of it.  I’m curious about how long things take. And because Tangerine and Leaf are two of my favorites, I ask specifically about them.

Tangerine 72

The images take me anywhere from three days to two weeks. The tangerine took me 2 weeks because I literally painted it three different ways before I was satisfied.  The leaf took 3 days.

Below is one seriously wonderful leaf…


I am drawn to the intense color of these two images, between that and the isolation of the forms, there is still something else that calls my attention. I am convinced that it has to do with her willingness to see, defined by both the clarity and depth of the work. In turn she allows me the same experience should I be willing, and yes … I am.



The deepest of painting’s meanings come from my recognition of the interconnections between myself and the rest of existence. This recognition is woven into the fabric of the painting.  Color, light, form and surface reveal themselves to the viewer by appealing to the senses.   In this way I speak of empathy and for this reason, I paint not only for myself, but for others as well.

Bowl of Figs


As a painter I reach for the outer world, the world of things, by means of the visual language.  Painting begins when my body and mind are in a state of concentration and I am focused on the object of my attention. 

Tea Cup

I note what Jacklyn does as precise and steady. Her practice involves much skill. She has will to attend to it in the manner that she does. It’s process. It’s work. It’s commitment. And maybe it’s sincere curiosity about being. It’s the conscious connect she makes every time she goes to her studio. St. Aubyn’s paintings grab my whole attention and bring me right into the moment. They honor the present.

Jacklyn St. Aubyn lives in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
She is represented by Matrix Fine Art in Albuquerque, NM.
To see her recent work and more of the 4″ x 4″ paintings (100 pieces project), visit her website and blog:
Jacklyn St. Aubyn’s blog

The Ring


While a grad student, I taught drawing (as Jacklyn’s teaching assistant). I observed her as she created/designed the curriculum for the Department of Art. That curriculum was eventually published and called Drawing Basics.  I teach much of that material today.

I didn’t study drawing with Jacklyn. Through her I learned how to teach drawing. She enhanced my seeing then with her teaching method. She continues to enhance my seeing through her painting.

Bowl of Grapes

coming to be

New work. Completed on BFK Rag. The  28″ x 20″ mixed media on paper is sitting on my easel, waiting to get signed and titled.  No name for it yet. Part of new series “Creative Structure.”

Composition evolved from a larger work, a 6′ x 7′ canvas, that was much more monochromatic. Went from very large to moderately small. Unusual evolution for my pieces. Usually start very small on paper, to eventual moderately large on canvas.

Wanted to work with color and paint with various mediums: casein, gouache and egg tempera. Also wanted to mark make.  Latter wish comes from watching my students draw right now.  The whole process of teaching charcoal always comes into my studio work somehow, including working on paper and some dry, monochromatic element, in this case graphite.

Finished work appeared slowly,  September 18th to November 21st. Took many turns. Probably could have stopped several times and called it done. Though, really was looking for a certain quality, a sort of  alive composition, and depth. Steady thought, steady mark. Brush stroked color and fine line silver graphite.

Here is how it came to be. Complete.  Living with it a for a while before I name it.







this body of work is coming together (formation cont.)…

As I work on drawing (what I think of as) legs, I recall my college anatomy drawing classes. I particularly enjoyed learning the bone and muscle structures of the human body.  I easily remember the names of the leg bones: femur, patella, tibia, and fibula.
Years later I was to study anatomy, in Yoga, and I came to discover another layer of leg information. Legs connect energetically to stability, protection, balance, justice, and honor. My legs allow me so much of my daily activity like walking, standing, jumping, and running.  I know my legs best when I’m out on a long run.  They’re strong and full of endurance.

As it turns out, I’m wrong about the way I’ve identified leg(s). Only now, with this drawing complete and after some research, I learn, precisely, leg refers only to the area between the knee and the ankle.  Hips, thighs (quads, hamstrings), knees, calves and ankles are not all parts of the leg. These parts identify as lower extremities which includes numerous bones, muscles, arteries, nerves, and tendons.  This information starts to clarify the energetics part, for me.

So…as I sit here and write about my lower extremity paintings, they appear so very generalized. Contours of hips, thighs, quads, knees, and calves…seem too simple a way to express these complex, highly charged, beautifully synchronized, hard-working limbs. They’re incredible, really they are.

On a side note, I wonder if I should have made the hips, knees, and calves painting, and the feet painting one singular piece, instead of 2 separate but connecting works. After-all they’re energetically and physically connected.
Decidedly I like separating and admiring the parts of our marvelous lower extremities.

Clearer focus moves into this picture. Things can start to change.

To be Continued…..

feet (formation cont….)

Working title:  Formation

New work continues. I’ve worked the head and the upper extremities. This weekend’s focus, the lower extremities.

How will this fit together visually? Won’t really know until all the parts are sized and completed. Right now there are at least 5 (parts). I have a few more to paint, then I’ll start piecing it together.

The feet, all about being grounded. Foundation. Connection. Balance. Mobility. Direction.
26 bones. 33 muscles. 31 joints. Over 100 ligaments.
Rooting…into the earth. Feet are feeling strong, firm and planted these days.

Original sketch.

I do like this but I want a stronger design.

Processing feet.

Clear, white structure sits atop a black gessoed, solid background.

Some roots, some seeds…some play, some ground.

Satisfied.  A clear and stable design with some flow and play.
They’re my feet.
Onto the legs.
To be continued….

formation cont.

I revisit this idea regularly. Maybe every few years. It always looks different.

I’ve got the parts. Forming the whole.

Never know what something is going to look like, until it all comes together.
Arms, hands…working. Foot and head working. One leg feels awkward.
Need a few more elements to pull this all together.
Working title: En Formación, In Formation

to be continued….

notes on drawing and painting


Completed the second week of school…I’m teaching Drawing 1 and 2. We are studying line, inner and outer contour, the edges of things.  

And I’m reading the 6th edition of  Drawing, A Contemporary Approach. It talks about drawing as extending both the mind and the spirit by promoting a deep respect for looking and thinking. Drawing allows for a heightened awareness of the visual world, the authors say. Drawing is complex, energetic  and consequently exciting. I see myself as someone who draws.  Though I work on canvas and some of my tools are paintbrushes…I draw with them. 

In my studio I am completing the final composition for my upcoming solo, only a few weeks away now.   The last 2 works I completed are the last 2 works for this exhibition. They also represent a beginning.  A change has occurred with this series.  One I have been patiently awaiting. Looking and thinking, thinking and looking, at another level. I wanted to express it.  I wanted the evolution to show itself.  



Final image begins with drawing tools. Water soluble graphite. Water soluble crayon. Powdered graphite. Draw shapes. Rework. Powder graphite rubbed into negative spaces of lower half of composition…rich silvery quality. Enhanced with light application of an egg tempera pewter .  Casein paints into positive spaces.  Detail with fine brushes using egg tempera.  
Is work complete? No. Need finer detail…with other materials. What other material?
Figurative. Abstract.  Scientific renderings. Esoteric philosophy.
Content is formulated at a deeper level. Materials are taken to another level.  Work is larger. Imagination utilized. Reference material important.   Weeks have passed, months have passed.

Look, think….think, look.
Observe, distinguish, relate. 
Draw and paint.